But how does that kind of thinking help women?
Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, on her media blitz to promote her new book, Lean In, about women, work, and gender inequality, made a very important point about the correlation between how much you fold laundry and how much you get laid.
"For men, if you split chores more evenly and breadwinning, you have a better marriage, more sex. If you want to have more sex with your wife, do the laundry," Sandberg concluded on HuffPost Live yesterday.
With only 4% of stay at home parents being fathers, it's a tough order to fill, and, studies say, maybe not a reality that would play out with modern day gender roles. While what Sandberg is predicting seems true on a gut level, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review in February, if women see men doing work traditionally associated with wives, they get turned off. And the good men dusting the fireplace, well, they don't get laid.
Conversely, the study also found that if a man contributes to the household in a traditionally male way (i.e. mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, grunting and felling trees), the couple would have more sex. Like 1.6 times more conjugal relations.
If we associate so many aspects of our mutual satisfaction with a partner with how much weight they pull in the relationship, how come women don't desire men pulling "their" specific weight—the cooking dinner, washing dishes, matching socks, weight? It seems to our detriment as women to think of our chores as separate, gendered tasks that have any quantitative sexual enhancement or value. Sex isn't a doggy treat women solely dispense for good behavior. And women aren't better at making dinner (hello, Mario Batali) so what are we gaining from behavior or thinking that keeps us saying so?
We often proclaim that men doing household chores are, as The Atlantic's Alexander Bradner phrases it, "small acts of heroism". Do we really need to congratulate men, be it with sex, smiles, or steak, for doing something women do day in and day out, and vice versa?
With women and men alike nationally postponing marriage in favor of professional advancement, it seems likely that keeping score will only keep our home lives just as unbalanced as our professional ones. As The Atlantic's Noah Berlatsky points out, you don't avoid marital fights by tallying chore hours, "you keep it from happening by remembering that your spouse is not your debtor, but your spouse."
I'm glad Sheryl Sandberg is igniting a conversation about the gender disparities and inequalities in both our careers and in our homes, but applauding work with sex, and thus gendering it, is only going back to square one. We could even the playing field and say we should all be having way more sex when we scrub the tub, regardless of our gender. But, if we're looking for a way to mitigate the limitations put upon women in both the home and workplace, maybe we should stop heroicizing anyone for doing what we self-identify as "this woman's work".